This Week In The 'Drome: Defending NBC, putting the bad in badminton, too much tragedy, and more ...
NBC vs. A Bunch of Whiners : Precious few people saw the movie Beautiful Girls, Ted Demme's delightful look at late-20s ennui.
At one point in the film, Matt Dillon's character informs his roommate — played by Michael Rapaport for some reason — he will not be attending the high-school reunion that is the movie's McGuffin, because Channel 38 is showing Rich Man, Poor Man in its entirety (let's ignore for the moment that such a marathon would last 12 hours).
Rapaport asks Dillon to tape it for him. "You can't tape Rich Man, Poor Man. You gotta watch it with the commercials just like everybody else" comes the response.
You are a great American, Matt Dillon.
NBC has taken a lot of criticism for its decision to do what it — and previous rights holder ABC — has always done with the Olympics: showing the premiere events tape-delayed in prime time. Hey, you gotta watch it just like everyone else.
Yes, NBC has the technology to show these events live — indeed more than 5,500 hours of the Olympics are being shown live on The Peacock's family of networks. And yes, you can watch swimming, track, gymnastics and so on live on the Internet. But that's not good enough for the Irony Generation, an entitled cohort of complainers who can't seem to be satisfied unless everything is given to them the way they want.
People who can watch a women's skeet shooting match from halfway around the world on their phones are complaining because they have to wait until 6:30 PM to watch gymnastics on their glorious 55-inch HD televisions.
America: this type of whining is not what made us the best country. Suck it up. The Olympics are a time for unity, as I wrote in this space last week. It is a time for us to sit down as a nation — and, boyo, have we been sitting down — and join our metaphorical hands as we watch our spinning, swimming, throwing, running proxies embarrass lesser nations athletes and also, occasionally, their horses.
You gotta watch it just like everybody else.
The Week Behind
All Your Oranges Are Belong To Me : Having already seized control of the University of Tennessee athletic department, the Haslam Family continued its quest to own every orange-hatted team in the land when Jimmy Haslam paid more than $1 billion for the Cleveland Browns this week (no word yet on how much Bowling Green State will cost).
This does have implications closer to home — and not just for the jokes which will surely result. It's long been rumored that once Bud Adams greets St. Peter, his heirs may try to sell the Tennessee Titans to a more Nashville-connected owner. The number of Tennesseans with the resources to buy an NFL team is slim and even the Haslams don't make the Forbes list of folks who can put nine zeroes in their net worth. But still, the Pilot fortune was linked to the Two Toners for years.
Now it seems the Haslams have settled for the hapless Browns and what happens when Bud goes to his reward remains unclear.
Tragic, Magic : Titans training camp started on a truly sad note as receiver O.J. Murdock died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Tampa after not reporting in Nashville.
Despite the tragedy, the business of football continued. The team finally signed first-round draft pick Kendall Wright, a much needed boost in the receiver corps which will likely begin the season without Kenny Britt.
The coaching staff is committed to showing they are truly putting on a quarterback battle, as Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck continue to split reps under center.
And this year's winner of the Richard Simmons Award for Looking Good In Shorts is defensive back Ryan Mouton, getting praise this week for his stellar performance in the early going.
Garbage Time : Did you know Hurricane Mills is the "Augusta of Motocross"? Cool story from Jerome Boettcher on a 14-year-old vying for gold. ... MBA grad Brad Bars will stay at Penn State. ... Vandy moves its football and men's hoops broadcast to WLAC so it can be heard all across the central U.S. and even Ontario. Massive 'Dores fans in Windsor, I hear. ... And another piece of tragic news: star Lipscomb athlete Matt Deery, who set five track records as a freshman, died in a car accident. ... And to end on a positive note: Best of luck to the Goodlettsville Little Leaguers down in Warner Robins, Ga., for the LLWS Regional. Win here and they go to Williamsport, Penn.
Badmintentions: Bruce Barry takes on the ethics of badmintongate, as we are apparently and unfortunately calling it. Was the expulsion of the eight competitors — who were making a long-term strategic decision at the expense of short-term success — too harsh?
He says yes in an interesting take:
But let’s not be too hard on the competitors and their coaches, who were just doing what the system here — the tournament format — incentivizes them to do if winning a medal is the goal. Their actions did treat the audience badly, yes, so we cannot say their actions did no harm. Even so, the real problem is the system itself, which these athletes didn’t design. Most sports reward strategy along with skill, athleticism, and stamina, and we now know that Olympic badminton is no exception.
So for me, on balance, expelling these competitors seems like overkill. Scold them mercilessly, and perhaps impose some sanctions that suspend them for a bit in competitions after the Olympics. Give the fans who attended their money back for that session, because they are the ones harmed, but let the tournament proceed with its best (and also apparently cleverest) players still in the frame.
The Week Ahead
Camp New : Rick Stockstill's never had to rebuild at MTSU. He's had a run of decent success in Murfreesboro, even turning down the East Carolina job to stay in the Bucket City.
What the heck was he thinking? Building the Raiders into a contender is always going to be a chore with the state's best athletes heading out of state and the next tier opting to go to Knoxville. Now with Vandy on the up, Stockstill still can't stock his roster with all the locals he desires.
But even coming off a 2-10 season which ended with six straight losses, Stockstill says he's up to the challenge and is more excited than ever before.
Meanwhile, James Franklin begins his second year at Vandy with expectations at a place not seen on West End since Dan McGugin invented the onside kick. Vandy will need Jordan Rogers to take a step forward. Warren Norman is expected to contribute after missing last season. And the 'Dores hope the momentum of a surprise 2011 can carry them to more success with a very manageable schedule.
Great American...Wait, What? Swimming and gymnastics dominate the Olympics' first week and give way to track on the back half of the fortnight-plus-two (or three or four).
MTSU sprinter Noah Akwu will represent Nigeria in the 200 meters, qualifying by the skin of his teeth. Barely sneaking into the Olympics usually doesn't portend medal success — maybe he can use the LaShawn Merritt Method to boost his time — but he's got a better chance than any of you slackers.
Where Are You, Ed Temple? It's no secret Coach Ed Temple is The 'Drome's favorite of Nashville sportspeople.
His guidance of TSU's Tigerbelles — which consisted basically of the sprinters on the U.S. Olympic team — is the stuff of legend. His heyday was the high-water mark for Tennessee's Olympic participation.
Now? The list of Great Americans with Tennessee ties is so lean, The Tennessean was forced to include Claire Donahue, whose connection to the Volunteer State is that she swam at Western Kentucky. (Ed. Note: A 'Drome reader notes Claire Donahue grew up in Lenoir City which is indeed a genuine connection to Tennessee, unlike the tenuous connection noted by 1100)
And most of the remainder of that list consist of athletes who competed at colleges in Tennessee, but who are not necessarily Tennesseans themselves.
Where are Tennessee's Olympians?
We are a state which once boasted not just the TigerBelles but also Tracy Caulkins. Is the decline in Tennessee Olympians related to an overall decline in Tennessee's relative athletic ability?
Collegiate football (and to a lesser degree, basketball) coaches bemoan the quality (and quantity) of recruits produced here. A track star will emerge now and then, as well as the occasional, say, shootist. But overall? We're at a nadir.
One solution is a concerted effort at developing Tennesseans in sports the rest of America does not care about. In the week since I wrote of my affection for handball, numerous graduates of USN have shared stories of playing the sport in gym class. Has Nashville been secretly grooming the Golden Generation of Team Handball? At the very least, there are PE teachers in town with some grasp of the sport.
Karl Dean, instead of urging us to walk/run/bike/swim/skip/tumble with you to work, be a true leader. If we're going to have charter schools on every street corner, put them to a patriotic use.
Let's set up some East German-style team handball academies. Tie public school funding to a requirement to teach the sport in phys ed. Hey, let's face it: the way things are going with all these charters, there'll only be six truly public schools remaining, so this won't cost much. Want to really ramp up the effort? Let's convince Martha Ingram to bankroll this little venture. The Haslams have the Browns; Ms. Martha can be the polite Mark Cuban of handball.
And Mayor Dean, you can be the Ed Temple of Team Handball. Nashville needs you. Tennessee needs you. America needs you.
Want to invite me to your underground team handball Fight Club? Or, ya know, tell me something else. Hit me at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Be sure to listen to 102.5 The Game at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. Also this week, I'll be joining the nationally broadcast For Your Ears Only for a discussion about why you people need to stop your Olympics-coverage complaining.